Borussia Dortmund ran out 2-1 (2-0) winners at home to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Matchday 29 of the Bundesliga season. In the context of the title race with Bayern Munich, the three points were enough to see BVB return to the top of the table until tomorrow afternoon at least.
Boris Rupert reporting
The 81,365 spectators who packed out a full-capacity Signal Iduna Park watched Borussia Dortmund dominate the first half, with two early goals from Jadon Sancho (17 and 24) giving the hosts a 2-0 lead at the interval. In the second half however, the visitors from Mainz had the better of the encounter, with Quaison's goal in the 83rd minute bringing them to within a goal of BVB. At the end of the day, Borussia had goalkeeper Bürki to thank for holding on to a slightly flattering 2-1 win.
The second-placed side faced the twelfth-placed, with a total of 30 points separating the two teams in the table. BVB went into the match having come out on top in six of their last eight meetings with the team from the Rhineland, conceding an average of less than a goal per game (0.9) in the process, meaning they enjoy a better defensive record against Mainz than against any other Bundesliga outfit.
In addition to Piszczek and Hakimi (both sidelined with foot injuries), Pulisic and Guerreiro were unable recover in time to play a part. Paco Alcácer made his return to the matchday squad after his spell on the sidelines with a hand injury. There were three changes to the side that lined up in Munich a week ago: Wolf, Weigl and Götze stepped in to replace Piszczek, Zagadou and Dahoud, with the latter two dropping to the bench.
Favre chose to revert back to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Reus dropping deeper and Götze stepping in up front (which didn't prevent him from showcasing some outstanding number 10 play to set up the first goal). The men from Mainz opted for a defensive 5-3-2 set-up. Midfielder Gbamin moved back to provide additional support in defense. The men in red looked to counter attack at speed every time they won back possession.
The match & analysis:
With half an hour on the clock, BVB had had seven shots at goals compared to Mainz's one. One of these had hit the woodwork, but more importantly, two had found the back of the net - Borussia had managed to reap the rewards of an impressive performance full of fluid and attractive combination play. In the sixth minute, Götze received the ball from a short corner and whipped in a dangerous cross which Latza diverted onto his own post. Not long afterwards, Bruun Larsen was unlucky to be denied by goalkeeper Müller after being played in by Jadon Sancho.
Sancho provides the early one-two punch
BVB would soon find the back of the net: Wolf played a long, searching ball forwards which Götze was able to chest down after a tussle with Niakhaté. He then eluded one defender with a drop of the shoulders, creating space for himself out on the right. He looked up, saw Sancho making a run in the area, and then played an inch-perfect ball in the path of the youngster, who was on hand to make it 1-0 (17). Seven minutes later, the Englishman was in the right place once more. Delaney forced his way to the by-line after a Götze through ball before sending the ball back across the face of the six yard box. A botched clearance from Niakhaté fell at the feet of Sancho, who made no mistake in firing home his second goal of the evening (24).
Borussia had chances to extend their lead in what remained of the first half. After a strong tackle from Witsel and a smart pass by Götze, the flight-footed Bruun Larsen misfired from a good position on the right of the area (31). Down the other end, the first lapse of concentration in the Dortmund defense presented Onisiwo with a sight of goal, but his effort was only able to graze the outside of the post (43).
At the start of the second half, Borussia passed up an opportunity to wrap things up. The Black & Yellows had a numerical advantage on the counter attack, but Bruun Larsen failed to look up and find either Götze or Reus, both of whom found themselves well-placed to score (50). As the game went on, sloppiness started to creep into Borussia's play. Mainz, bolstered by the arrival of Baku and their shift to a 4-4-2, were starting to find themselves in more space and were able to capitalise. Onisiwo was denied by the woodwork for a second time in the 63rd minute. This was one of just several near-misses in the second half.
Things were compounded when Wolf was forced off, with Akanji shifting out to take his place on the right side of defense (78). Another botched goal-scoring opportunity didn't exactly help either, with Reus this time guilty of failing to look up and play the ball to a better-positioned teammate (Phillip). Shortly afterwards, Quaison struck for Mainz to cut the margin to one goal (83). Borussia were teetering on the edge. It took a truly heroic double save from Bürki to prevent Ujah or Hack from grabbing an equalizer right at the death.
BVB are next in Bundesliga action on Easter Sunday, when they travel to face Sportclub Freiburg. Kick-off is scheduled for 15:30 CET.